The 1927 tragedy of Billy, Harley and Sue's first born child, was a game-changer for the family.

The 1927 tragedy of Billy, Harley and Sue's first born child, was a game-changer for the family.

The Earl automotive story didn’t begin with Harley, but rather with his father, Jacob W. (J.W.) Earl, a late 19th Century coach builder, who started the family’s auto heritage seven years before Henry Ford built his first car in 1896; see a four-part online series on the Earl's "California Years” at theoldmotor.com. No wonder J.W.'s great-grandson Richard Earl has so much driving passion, he’s part of one of America’s oldest continuous auto legacy dating back to 1889.  Richard's shaping up a book and says, “The story is an eye-opening trek, 128 years in the making.”

Who was the team leader behind building the largest industrial company in the world through design leadership? With all its major ups and downs, General Motors still remains our nation's largest car company and the quote below from the following "Best of America" news article best answers this question, "His drive to execute his vision turned Harley Earl into a car industry disruptor, 70 years before disruptors became cool. GM's competitors didn't want to redesign their cars every year. But Harley Earl's success forced them to."  

The innovative team of leaders at GM during the mid-twentieth century stood behind Pioneer-Earl and created the modern Car Design soul that in tune helped forge the meteoric rise of today's global automotive economy.  

From university students to Vietnam veterans to Fortune 500 executives and Nonprofits, the story behind this American auto heritage is as important as it is inspiring.


In a recent episode Leno says, "Probably the most famous car in the history of General Motors, if not the United States."

Harley Earl at GM Styling in Argonaut Bldg.


Harley J. Earl (HJE) didn't become the Car Design Pioneer without fighting, and winning, against legions of traditional Detroit engineers and finance guys. What was his goal during his long career? Building 10s of millions of intoxicatingly elaborate sexy hi-tech vehicles. Doing so also landed him in the rarefied spot of becoming the global auto industry's first design superstar! HJE's responsible for turning car designers into the rock stars of the auto industry. Leslie M. Kendall, chief curator of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, Ca. accurately gives this man credit for another milestone that very well may be the icing on the cake of his untold story,  "Harley J. Earl is one of the most hotly collected artists of the 20th Century, whose name is ironically often unknown among collectors of his work." 

Car-architect-Earl was the first person to bridge the art world to mass production in the auto industry and this pioneering engineer of desire called it, “the Modern Art of Industry.” Through Harley's studio doors rolled the cars that would ignite a nation's love affair with the automobile, establishing Detroit as the auto design capital of the world, creating a huge contemporary art market, and enabling the auto industry to become mid-twentieth-century America’s economic backbone.

Harley's accolades are as numerous as they are diverse: inventing the concept car, being the first to use full-size clay modeling, fathering the Corvette, hiring and advancing women car designers, first hands-free autonomous cars, creating the landmark Car Design Scholarship program, and supplying the auto design curriculum to such universities as Art Center College of Design and Pratt Institute. 

HJE's Independent Design Firm

Giant manufacturers turned to the man who created
"Detroit's Dependency on Design" to style their products.

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Foundation of CDP  

By 1969, most top auto execs knew HJE invented the Car Design Profession; find out how & why this changed over time. 

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